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A Renault Twingo electric car is shown in Paris, France. File photo: GONZALO FUENTES/REUTERS
A Renault Twingo electric car is shown in Paris, France. File photo: GONZALO FUENTES/REUTERS

Paris/Berlin — Volkswagen has walked away from talks with Renault to jointly develop an affordable electric version of the Twingo car, four sources familiar with the situation said. This is  a setback for the EU carmakers’ efforts to fend off Chinese rivals.

The collapse of negotiations could mean the German carmaker may have to go it alone in developing its own affordable electric vehicle (EV). Renault will continue designing its electric Twingo, scheduled to hit the market in 2026.

Both had hoped that sharing the work would cut costs that represent a key hurdle for European carmakers in the face of cheaper cars from China.

A potential partnership between Volkswagen and Renault would have brought together household names of Europe’s top two economies and formed a counterweight against Asian rivals muscling into the local market.

One of the sources said Volkswagen’s works council played a role in talks falling apart, adding a jointly developed electric Twingo could have been ready as soon as 2026.

Ampere, Renault’s EV operation overseeing the Twingo programme, declined to comment.

A spokesperson for Volkswagen also declined to comment on the talks between the companies but said that the German carmaker was still studying its options on cheap EVs.

Volkswagen broke off discussions mainly because Renault had wanted to build the car in one of its plants at a time when VW is seeking to fully utilise its European production network, a second source said.

The companies “did not succeed in finding an agreement” after several months of negotiations, said a third source.

The fourth source said that an agreement had been very close, but VW walked away from the talks and has decided to develop its own car.

The sources declined to be named because the talks are confidential.

VW sources said a decision on the EV plan is expected within weeks.

Thomas Schaefer, CEO of the Volkswagen brand, has said he wants to launch a lower-priced EV by 2027.

The fourth source said Renault would continue to work on the Twingo without VW, but also remained open to other partners, for instance from the alliance with Nissan and Mitsubishi.

It is also a blow for Renault CEO Luca de Meo’s hopes for greater co-operation between European carmakers against their Chinese competitors.

The VW-Renault tie-up for the Twingo could have formed the “basis” of an Airbus for autos, the fourth source said.

China’s automakers, the world’s top EV producers, are making fast inroads in the European market, pressuring incumbents like Renault and VW to cut costs and speed up the time it takes to bring a new model to market.

European automakers are aiming to produce smaller EVs that sell below €20,000 to help them compete with Chinese brands such as BYD.

Reuters

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